From time to time, we, at Movietone, were obliged to work through the night. This work concerned the production of important news items. These included The FA Cup Final, Grand National and items of national interest like Royal marriages, births and deaths.
My normal means of getting home at around one o’clock in the morning was by bus. Whereas during a normal day I would either have to walk a half-mile to Howland Street to get a trolleybus or to Leicester Square to get the tube, during the small hours there was a night bus. The night bus used to stop outside the Astoria in Charing Cross Road. This was only 60 yards from the office.
Boarding the night bus, for the first time, I noticed that everyone else on board seemed to know each other. I guessed this was because they were “regulars”. They seemed, from their conversations, to be restaurant and pub workers. I went upstairs and sat by the near-side window. Off we went up Tottenham Court Road and on to Camden Town where we turned into Holloway Road. After we left Manor House, we went along Seven Sisters Road until we diverted from our daytime route and went up Amhurst Park to the junction of Tottenham High Road and Stamford Hill. The bus turned left into the High Road and then stopped. In a few moments the entire bus, except me, evacuated and ran into the all night café, which stood to the north-west of the junction. I soon joined them, not knowing what was going on, and got in a queue at the head of which the passengers, the driver and conductor were ordering tea and wads (This was a common phrase used by Terry – Ian). “Wads” was a word that covered almost anything one could hold in one hand and put in ones mouth in a café. I ordered a cup of tea and sat down by myself, not knowing anyone else. Eventually, the conductor announced that they were continuing the journey. Everyone drank up and re-mounted the bus which now proceeded into Tottenham where it dropped me off at White Hart Lane. It was obvious that this was a regular occurrence with the Night Bus. I wonder if the London Passenger Transport Board had ever heard of this strange event.
One of the most famous restaurants at that time was Leoni’s Quo Vadis in Dean Street, founded by Peppino Leoni in 1926 as an Italian Restaurant. It was formerly the home of Karl Marx. By the late forties, it was offering a British menu as well. All I could do at the time was to read the menu.
Recently, the restaurant has re-opened as Quoi Vadis but the old atmosphere of my young days, not surprisingly, has gone.
Next Chapter: Chapter 31: Haute Cuisine on the High Seas